News Staff Report
After the Alabama Senate passed by the narrowest of margins this week a bill that would put the question of a paper lottery on the 2020 ballot, the future of other gaming, such as electronic Bingo and dog and horse racing, remains up in the air.
State senators passed the paper lottery measure by a 21-12 margin, just reaching the required three-fifths majority to send the bill to the Alabama House for its consideration. Two senators were reportedly absent and did not vote.
As the senate was considering the lottery bill, the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee was hearing arguments in favor of local constitutional amendments to allow the return of dog racing and electronic games similar to those at Poarch Band of Creek Indians casinos in Atmore, Wetumpka and Montgomery to Macon County’s VictoryLand.
Rep. Pebblin Warren, a Tuskegee Democrat, argued that the closure of VictoryLand had not only drastically reduced the number of available jobs in Macon County, but also created a drain on tax and other public revenue created by the gaming establishment.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton of Greensboro, also a Democrat, sought a similar amendment for Greene County, where GreeneTrack once offered electronic games and horse racing.
Robert McGhee, who holds a seat on the Poarch Creek Indians Tribal Council and serves as director of governmental affairs for Alabama’s only federally recognized Native American tribe, argued that the proposed Macon County amendment’s language left unanswered questions as to whether the federal government or local authorities would determine whether the machines were compliant.
McGhee told lawmakers that the state should take a comprehensive approach to gaming because other counties will seek similar amendments. He also expressed his belief that gambling should be dealt with at a statewide level, not as a local issue.
“If you start looking at local legislation to fix the gaming issue to reform the economic development load of these counties, that’s not the right approach,” he said.